- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Richland County leaders are promising to cooperate in the investigation of how the county has used its transportation sales tax money.

Local media outlets reported that county leaders do not think they have done anything wrong and are not sure what the state Revenue Department and State Law Enforcement Division are investigating.

The Revenue Department is considering whether there has been political corruption, fraud, and wasteful or illegal spending of the money acquired in a penny increase in the sales tax to pay for transportation projects.

The Revenue Department has asked SLED to assist in the investigation.

“We feel that since the beginning of the penny sales tax, we’ve been taking the proper steps to make sure that we’re in compliance with the law in our procurement process,” County Council Chairman Torrey Rush said at a Tuesday news conference.

Rush said county leaders are in the dark on most details of Revenue Department’s findings sent to county administrator Tony McDonald on Dec. 3 that apparently suggest possible corruption and fraud. The county is awaiting a response to its letter dated Dec. 9 asking for clarification of the allegations.

One of the issues raised by the Revenue Department is $600,000 that is being paid annually from penny tax revenues to two public information firms “for the equivalent of fewer than two full-time employees,” according to the letter.

The state agency pointed out that Richland County already has a public information office.

The county plans to hire an independent forensic auditor to review the county’s transportation tax activities, Rush said.

The county’s transportation sales tax has generated more than $126 million since officials began collecting the money in May 2013.

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